It’s late at night, a week to the day since I entered the seminary. I’m off to pray a rosary before bedtime, but our small chapel by the second floor dorms is looking a little crowded and I’m in the mood for some private prayer tonight.
All the lights are out on the first floor, so I tread carefully on my way to the magnificent St. John’s Chapel, the heart of our house where we have daily Mass and communal prayers. I swing open the door and step into the silent, sacred space. The moonlight trickling in through the high stained glass windows, and the steadfast sanctuary light at the far end, are just enough for me to see where I’m going. The chapel seems immense in the echoing darkness.
Immense, but not empty. My Lord, Savior, and Friend is waiting there for me. Tonight, the dark and space are there to welcome me. They’re a shelter for us – Jesus, Mary, and me – in this time we have together.
I drop to my knees on the marble steps before the altar. Beyond lies the Blessed Sacrament, the Body of Christ. All I can see is a slight reflection of the candle in the burnished gold of the tabernacle that holds Jesus, but I know He’s there. As my eyes adjust, I can almost make out the shapes of the beautiful paintings of Mary and the saints on the walls and domed ceiling above me. Again, I can’t quite see them but I know they’re there, just like the silent friends they represent. I’m even less alone than I thought.
Deep joy fills me as I launch into the Glorious Mysteries. It’s a moment of pure consolation, undeserved and unasked-for but much appreciated. I wish I could explain it, but maybe it’s best I don’t try. God gives gifts in His own mysterious ways.
By the time I finish, I’m behind the altar, kneeling right in front of the tabernacle. All I can do now is give thanks. A priest I know once said that the prayer God most loves to hear is one word:
So that’s what I say. Wow, that He would give Himself to me in such an intimate way. Wow, that I’m even here. Wow, when I think of all it took to get me here.
I turn around and look out over the rows of pews where just a few years ago I sat and thought, I could see myself here. Now this is my home. I laugh out loud at the wonder of it all.
No matter where I go, sooner or later I’m haunted by the feeling that I don’t belong there. Whether that’s a temptation to discouragement from the enemy or just homesickness for Heaven I don’t know, but it’s kept me searching for a long time. I still can’t be sure that I’m called to be a priest, but tonight I know one thing for certain.
This is where I belong.
Jesus, I trust in You.
Your servant, Aaron